Accused killer had insatiable sex appetite, girlfriend says

A former girlfriend of Tony Lopez Perez, the Redondo Beach man accused of killing Cori Desmond, says he raped her on two occasions when she was heavily sedated.

Tony Lopez Porez

Tony Lopez Porez, the Redondo Beach resident accused of murdering Cori Desmond. Photo by David Rosenfeld

The man accused of killing popular Manhattan Beach bartender Cori Desmond on Valentine’s Day 2009 was increasingly becoming more aggressive sexually in the months before the homicide, according to the man’s live-in girlfriend at the time.

Tiffany Ware told a San Bernardino County jury on Wednesday that her former boyfriend, Tony Lopez Perez, had an insatiable appetite for sex in January and February of 2009. Even though they were making love almost every day, Ware said Perez was still not satisfied.

“He wanted sex more and more,” she said.

Perez, a former student at Mira Costa High School, is accused of murdering Desmond on a North Redondo side street during what detectives believe was a sexual assault gone wrong. Desmond’s body was discovered over the edge of a mountain turnoff on Hwy 330 near Running Springs.

In the eight months until Perez was arrested more than 50 billboards blanketed the Los Angeles area asking for tips related to her murder. Spurred perhaps by one particular billboard near the apartment the couple shared, Ware called in a tip in May 2009 about her son’s father.

The two lived together for about four years and share a 6-year-old son, but they were never married.

The slim blonde-haired woman wore large sunglasses as armed Sheriff’s deputies escorted her to court. On the stand, Ware said the couple had a rocky relationship. Sometime in 2006, after their son was born, Ware said that Perez raped her on two occasions about a month apart. Both incidents occurred when Ware was fast asleep on the couch after taking a painkiller for severe back pain, she said.

Ware said she woke up to find Perez on top of her having sex without her consent. The second time, she kicked him out. Ware moved to Colorado for about a year, but eventually they got back together and moved back into the same place on Carnegie Lane in North Redondo.

Around the same time as Desmond’s murder, Ware said she caught Perez masturbating to Internet pornography even when she and the kids were home.

Ware’s tip of Perez’s suspicious behavior – late nights the weekend of the murder, detailing his SUV shortly after, selling it with just two payments left, changing his cell phone number for no apparent reason, and taking a trip with Ware near where he’d dumped the body on which made a strange, unsolicited comment about Desmond’s disappearance – led police to seriously suspect Perez (see more on investigation here).

At the time, the case had nearly gone cold. Dedicated San Bernardino County Sheriff’s detectives never gave up. They tracked down the SUV in August and eventually had positive evidence of Desmond’s DNA in October when Perez was arrested.

Shock to defendant’s family

In the third day of testimony Wednesday, the prosecution attempted to portray Perez as hormonally uncontrolled and motivated sexually to murder Desmond.

A relative of Perez in attendance Wednesday portrayed a starkly different character in an exclusive interview with the Easy Reader. The woman, who asked that her name not be used, said Perez was a hard worker and great with kids. He often took his nieces and nephews on fishing trips.

“They love their uncle Tony,” she said.

Perez came from a large family with eight siblings. His parents grew up in the L.A.area, and Perez attended high school in Manhattan Beach. The relative said she knew little about him because he worked so much, but she did not recall any stories of him being violent in any way.

“He would give the shirt off his back,” she said. “I’m here so he knows we still love him. I’m not here to judge him. There’s a God and a judicial system to place judgment.”

In his own words

Jurors watched three videos Wednesday taken by detectives in October 2009 in which Perez explains in his own words how he all but murdered Desmond.

The first video shows Perez on the street with two detectives around 9:30 at night outside his apartment wearing an unbuttoned plaid shirt over a white T-shirt. He’s got a large potbelly and his hair is cut almost in a Mohawk. Throughout the videos, Perez is polite to detectives, obediently following their requests and willfully submitting to the re-enactment even though he didn’t have to.

Jurors watched as he related the second of three versions of the story he eventually told. In this version, he claims he found Desmond lying on the sidewalk dead and decided to dispose of her body without calling police. He later confessed to killing her in attempt to calm her down. He claims he was intoxicated, scared, and panicked.

“It looked like she was crossed up,” Perez is heard telling detectives in the video. “So I shook her and she felt cold. Oh shit, I thought. Is she dead? Wait a minute I’m drunk,” he says. “Somebody’s going to think I did it. I got scared and I panicked. That’s when I put her in the car.”

Once he finally got to bed, Perez said he woke up during the night and went outside to check “to see if it was a nightmare.”

“I opened the door and it was not a nightmare,” Perez told detectives. “It was true.”

Perez said he went back inside and tried to sleep, then went to work the next morning with Desmond’s body still in the backseat.

In the second video, shot later that same night outside the Spitfire Grill at the Santa Monica airport, Perez showed detectives where he parked his SUV for work. Perez worked at the restaurant as a general manager and part-time chef.

Sometime during his shift on Feb. 15 he said he covered Desmond’s body with two trash bags. He said he then ran an errand to replace a 12-pack of Bud Light he had previously taken from the bar.

In the final scene, shot the following day after his arrest, Perez is wearing an orange prison suit and ankle chains. He’s standing with detectives on the turnout where he disposed of Desmond’s body.

He’s seen standing with detectives on the mountain turnout below Big Bear where he disposed of Desmond’s body. Detectives parked a silver Ford Taurus in the spot Perez said he parked his own car. He then motioned how he pulled her from the vehicle.

“I was nervous,” he said on camera. “I almost ran.”

Desmond’s body landed several yards down the embankment covered in two dark trash bags. He said he might have dragged her a little as he pulled her to the edge. “I think I flung her kind of,” he said. “That was basically it. Then I sprinted back to the car.”

Throughout most of the day Wednesday Perez sat with his head tilted downward. He shaved his goatee after the first day of the trial.

Also on Wednesday coroner Jack Sheridan testified to the multiple contusions to the victim’s head, the evidence of strangulation and the blunt force trauma to her face. There were also scratches on her body that suggested she was dragged after her death, Sheridan said.

The coroner also testified that Desmond had a blood alcohol content of 0.35 percent, high enough to possibly cause her death.

Defense attorney Andrew Haynal will attempt to convince the jury to issue a less severe verdict against his client of voluntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum of 11 years in prison, as opposed to murder, which carries 25 years to life.

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